Posted on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 by Peter Sciretta
Andy Serkis was a surprise addition to the Star Wars cast — out of all the many rumors that bubbled up about the new lineup, it wasn’t until today that his name was mentioned in conjunction with the new project. Serkis started in television in 1989 and worked steadily through the next decade, but his role as Gollum (and Gollum’s human half, Smeagol) in the Lord of the Rings films really pushed him into stardom. Despite playing some live-action roles in the films that followed, the high points for Serkis have been almost entirely in motion-capture roles, and the actor is basically synonymous with mo-cap at this point.
So the obvious question with Serkis is whether he’ll play a live-action role, or if he’ll be acting in a mo-cap suit. If JJ Abrams wants a creature that can also emote, Serkis is an obvious choice. Star Wars is a story framework that is loaded with creature possibilities. But could we see Serkis in human form in the Star Wars universe? We’ve heard he might be playing a live-action role.
Serkis could fit into two of the descriptions from the early breakdown, either the “Forty something male, fit, military type” or “Thirtysomething male, intellectual. Apparently doesn’t need to be fit.” Or, he could be a whole new character.
Domnhmall Gleeson has some experience with big franchise pictures, thanks to his role as Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter films. Here, he likely won’t be a supporting character, as we’d expect Gleeson to play one of the trio of core new characters that will travel through all three of the upcoming Episodes. Gleeson is the oldest of the three characters we’d expect to be the lead trio. (With John Boyega and Daisy Ridley being the other two.) He’s got great comic chops, as seen throughout About Time and in the upcoming Frank. He’s got a much wider range than that, however, as About Time, Anna Karenina, and yes, Harry Potter all show.
Plus, he’s the perfect embodiment of this early casting description: “Young twenty-something male, witty and smart, fit but not traditionally good looking.”
Max von Sydow
If J.J. Abrams needed a powerful elder statesman for Star Wars — whether good or evil — he has turned to the right man. Max von Sydow is basically the original Jedi. In one of his earliest films, 1957’s The Seventh Seal, he played a knight who encounters Death while on the way home from the Crusades. Sydow’s extensive work with Igmar Bergman cemented him as a mainstay of major world cinema, and his role as Father Merrin in The Exorcist dropped him right into the New Hollywood movement and the popular explosion of genre pictures that all led to the point we’re at today.
Sydow also played Ming the Merciless in the 1980 film Flash Gordon — ironically, George Lucas originally created Star Wars as a channel for his interest in Flash Gordon. Now the two have combined. (Oh, and he was the voice of Vigo the Carpathian in Ghostbusters II.) And those are just some of the most obvious moments in his career — Sydow’s film roles could be the subject of a small library’s worth of reading. Sydow’s age means he probably won’t play a character who leaps into battle (unless Abrams wants to work the sort of digital magic George Lucas applied to Christopher Lee) but he’ll be powerful nonetheless.
In the original casting breakdown, Sydow sounds almost exactly like the “Seventy-something male, with strong opinions and tough demeanour. Also doesn’ t need to be particularly fit.”